The Tomato Can Packed a Punch

5 Dec 2018

Holy Krause is a boxer whose name came about because of his mother’s quandary about picking a name. So, she said, look, the first word I hear after the baby’s born…that’s what’s going to be his name. And that word managed to emanate from her husband’s table-banging shout of joy, Holy____, it’s a boy! True to her word, Holy became his name.

Holy, now a journeyman boxer, lives third floor in a boxy, tan-brick, six-story opposite the station on 125th Street and Broadway near where the subway rolls out from underground and noses up to become the elevated. Actually, he lives on the downtown side, so he sees riders getting on, before they disappear into tunnel darkness.

After his morning run, Holy works at his stovetop on the window wall…so he can scramble his morning eggs and watch commuters peering down the tracks trying to see the next train coming. And they can see him in satin boxing trunks and a red hoodie with a spatula making eggs. Same faces each morning look at him as he looks back at them. Soon, recognizing each other, they were hand-waving greetings across Broadway.

Holy had a three-year boxing career…a quick rise because he lucky-punched a middle-weight contender, when he was a last-minute fill-in for the scheduled opponent who was on a subway going to the fight, when his train got rear-ended. Nothing serious, but for three hours the electricity was off and the opponent was trapped on a dark train in a dark tunnel because equipment had to be rolled in to separate the trains and lift two of the cars back on the track. And that was right after he got stuck between floors for an hour in an old Otis Elevator in a factory building  after his shift, sewing flags. Hey, Chucky, he said to the elevator operator, you gotta get me down. Two things I can’t stand…needles and being stuck in elevators. Besides, I got a fight at the Garden tonight and I need the payday. As usual someone’s bad luck is someone else’s good luck, because now a warm body was needed to fill in for the main event bout.

Fortunately, the fight’s promoter belonged to the same synagogue as a boxing trainer, Jesse Nuvitz. whose fighters trained at his basement boxing gym, but  whose stable of no-names was long on courage, but short on skill. The most promising of them  was Holy Krause. As luck would have it, no talmudic laws banning  business activity on Shabbas…like promoting fights…was broken, because it was winter and dark early and Shabbas was over. So the two could offer each other ‘Good Shabbas’ handshakes and make a deal for an opponent. Then Nuvitz began a desperate series of calls, trying to find Holy and get him to the Garden on time. Don’t worry he told the promoter, he’s always in great shape, not an ounce of fat, has a good chin. And I just got him a new satin robe, still in the box. I told him, hey, good things are going to happen…who knew?

Look, said the promoter, I’m not looking for some high octane fight here. Just 4 or 5 decent rounds will do. This is a tune-up for a title fight for my boy. If this goes well, your boy will have more fights than he’ll know what to do with. What’s to worry, said Nuvitz, I’m bringing a tomato can to the fight, you’re bringing a sledge hammer. What could go wrong?

So the fight started and the anointed contender flicked a couple of jabs to get respect and then, arms down, danced around, sticking his chin out, daring Holy to hit him and, likely, deciding when he was going to deliver the hearts and flowers. So he danced and darted and flicked and Holy decided, if he could help it, he wasn’t going to bleed for this showboat. So third round he jabbed weakly. It was flicked away contemptuously. But Holy found the anointed’s chin with a right that knocked him into Pleasantville. His knees buckled, he pitched forward and stayed respectfully unconscious until he was counted out.

On Monday morning, back to his routine…and his stovetop… Holy made eggs, waved across Broadway to his subway friends and pretended it was a normal Monday morning. Except one subway friend, who was at the Garden shouted, ‘Hey, Champ.’